Selected Media Fads Through the Ages

Von Willendorf venus statue, circa 24,000 bce

24,000-22,000 BC: chunky fertility goddess statues (pictured at right: notice the prominent and large brains.)

10,000 BC: cave painting

4,000 BC: ziggurat construction

3,000-1,250 BC: pyramid raising (later revived by Mesoamericans and I.M. Pei)

1480-1700: Witch burning

1500s: homoerotic sonnet writing

1600s: pirate singing

1700s: pamphleteering

1760-1762: spreading syphilis

1790s: opera

1800s: novel-writing

1900-1914: being optimistic about the future

1919-1922: cutting up pieces of paper and pulling them out of a hat, also, painting

1925: jazz music

1927: soap-based radio

1933: burning books (mostly in Germany)

1951: find-the-commie (kind of like peek-a-boo, but with Senators)

1964: screaming (usually Beatle-related)

1966: TV

1976: disco

1977: DIY pet rocks

1982-1988: taking odds on Reagan-related nuclear holocaust

1987-1997: making answering machine messages (see below)

1998: web sites about your cat

1999: cappuccino drinking (related to dot-com bubble)

2000: looking forward to the future (this didn’t last as long as the previous fad in this genre)

2003: Friendster

2004-2005: blogging

2006: MySpace

2007: Facebook

April 2008: Twitter

2009 (Jan.-Aug): talking/writing/broadcasting about Twitter in MSM.

2009, Sep. 15: Blogging (again, briefly, but only about Dan Brown’s latest “masterstroke of storytelling”

2010 (Jan.-Feb.):getting really excited about the release of the iPad.

2010 (Mar.): trying to remember what all the fuss about the iPad was all about.

2010: “winning

2011: pretending the British Royal family is important

2012: posting pictures of every frickin’ meal on Instagram

2013: twerking

2014: “binge-watching” TV

And yes, Answering machine messages was the most important creative outlet of the nineties!

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Video here if it doesn’t beep.

Alltop and enjoys their Bebo. From my collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures. Originally published in 2010, and updated!

Pirate etymology: sea dog

Grrr! by Jesper Egelund

Many believe the term stems from the dog-like appearance of the seal, while others claim it is grizzled old sailors. Both of these are correct, nautically speaking, but not when it comes to the pirate.

Pirates, and more particularly, privateers, became known as sea dogs after the astonishing career of Captain Rufus the Flatulent.

Captain Rufus was given his Letter of Marque by Henry VIII, and plied his trade in the English Channel, off the coast of Aquitaine, and wherever Henry was at war. The privateer campaign in Aquitaine was particular successful, and Captain Rufus took many a prize. (Henry always had a hard time getting these out of Rufus’s jaws, but he was easily distracted by the piles of cooked swan that Henry had lying around the castle.)

In fact, the etymology of the term begins in Aquitaine, where French merchantmen sailors would cry, upon seeing Rufus’s standard (a set of crossed bones), “sauve qui peu, c’est le chein du mer!” (Sometimes they would just wet themselves and jump in the ocean without shouting anything.)

This “cheien du mer” cry quickly became anglicized, and is the now-famous, “sea dog.”

Alltop Grrr!, a photo by Jesper Egelund on Flickr.

Fly the Flensing Skies

turbineIn the late 1960’s Albanian Airlines’ passengers had overwhelmingly rejected their, “only a sissy needs a seatbelt,” marketing slogan.

Their subsequent efforts were equally ineffective at increasing their revenues, including the following notions:

  • no alcohol or tobacco on our flights, but we provide scopolamine
  • bring your own seat (lawnchairs, hammocks, blankets acceptable)
  • we don’t mind goats, just share!

Finally, they discovered the magic of extortion.

Alltop will extort a laugh any way they can.

Miss Atomic Test, Las Vegas

1957 - Miss Atomic Test, Las Vegas via x-ray delta one

Like everyone, she was in shock.

But she had just narrowly avoided the disintegration of LA. She’d moved to Vegas the week before the war began, to work as a background dancer.

They found her the day after, in Vegas, getting ready for the show. She was starving as usual. Her figure just wouldn’t conform to the standards of the 2020s, and that meant not eating very much. Not that she felt like eating, after she’d seen some of the video of what remained of her home town.

They could change it all with a photo, they told her.

All they needed was for her to accept that she could be in two times in one place. It was a little thing, right? Like, you’re a gorgeous dancer who thinks she’s fat. The reality doesn’t change, just because your thinking is all wrong.

So she said yes, and the next day — after all the injections, and the strange machine — she woke up in 1954. She was a dancer at the Copa Room, at the Sands. She did a show with Frank Sinatra. Sammy Davis Jr. dropped in, and was a big hit. Everyone thought she was gorgeous, even though (she thought) she was a fat cow.

Eventually, she got comfortable with being desired by so many men, despite her obvious (to her) defects. She loosened up, though she was always quiet and reserved. Some of the other girls called her “the librarian”, but if they’d had the right words, they would have called her the cipher. She never mentioned her folks — she was intensely aware of the fact that they were not born yet, and she didn’t want to say anything to prevent their existence.

They hadn’t told her which photograph would be the right one. Funny, that the scientists should miss such an obvious detail, so she treated each snap with reverence and joy. “The secret,” the lead scientist had told her before she left the year 2024, “is your innocence and exuberance. When they take the shot, you have to exhibit that, above all.”

It was one of the things that made her more of a cipher than a librarian. Her reserve dissolved whenever a camera was produced, which was noticed by a Hollywood producer in 1956. He wanted to her to do a screen test in LA, but she turned him down flat.

They hadn’t said which photo would be the one, but the scientists hadn’t told her she needed to do movies.

When it happened a year later, she was in no doubt. The photo that would save the world had been taken.

And after that, she was (almost) free.

Alltop loves a little time travel! 1954 – Miss Atomic Test, Las Vegas, a photo by x-ray delta one on Flickr.